My mum Rene (Alice Irene Flitney née Harding) died in 1999. When my brother, sister and I went through her things we found an envelope full of old newspaper clippings and other bits and pieces. We looked through the papers and put the envelope away, but those yellowing pieces of paper keep whispering of half-forgotten times and places. Places like Butlers Cross, Stoke Mandeville, Aylesbury, West Wycombe, Little Kimble, Wendover, Ellesborough, Southcourt and Princes Risborough.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

West Wycombe Park and the Hellfire Caves

Memory has a habit of playing tricks on me these days – did things happen the way I remember? Many of my memories are more than 60 years old. Would my sister and brother remember them in the same way? I have no idea, so all I can do is tell the stories as I recall them with a little help from cuttings, photographs and letters.

High Wycombe is another of those familiar sounding places that I don't really remember. This entry from my 'baby book' might give a clue;
Have you ever noticed when someone dies their handwriting doesn't change? Well, it wouldn't would it, but you know what I mean.

I don’t have any recollection of the shopping trips to High Wycombe, but I vividly remember conversations about West Wycombe Park, and the Hellfire caves. So a visit there felt like the next logical step.

West Wycombe Park on a beautiful sunny morning in July (2014)

West Wycombe Park is one of the most theatrical and Italianate of all English country houses and the Dashwood family home for over 300 years. Set in 45 acres of landscaped park, the house as we see it today is the creation of the 2nd baronet in the 18th century.

More from the National Trust website here

The grounds and house are frequently featured in screen adaptations of literary classics such as Cranford and Little Dorrit and more recently in the television series, Downton Abbey.

Polo in the grounds of West Wycombe Park 

After a lovely morning in the sunshine, it was on to the Hellfire caves and a very different experience. 

Located in West Wycombe the Hellfire Caves have a notorious history and are reputed to conceal many mysteries.  They are actually a man-made network of tunnels carved out of the chalk and flint of West Wycombe Hill commissioned by Sir Francis Dashwood. 
 Read More; The Hellfire Caves

The caves and the terrible deeds that supposedly went on there were discussed at great length when I was a little girl.  Mutterings of dark deeds, devil worship and debauchery were not intended for my small ears – but I heard, and I remembered!  So an opportunity to visit was not to be turned down.

Words on a plaque in the caves

My first impressions of the caves were a little disappointing. Too many people making too much noise, but as the saying goes ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ and ghostly noises sound so much better when you are deep underground. As we got further into the tunnels, much of the chatter and squeals died away, and then it began to feel a little cold and distinctly creepy.  I was, however, unprepared for some of the images picked up by my camera.  I would hate to be alone down there, especially if the lights went out! 

The two photographs that follow have not been photoshopped or played around with in any way, they are just as they came out of the camera. They were taken in a particularly dark part of the caves, so I have no idea why they are so much brighter than all the rest. The camera settings were untouched during our visit. 

I make no claims about what they might show – I leave that to you. Suffice to say I find them very creepy!

Terry and I didn't notice a thing while in the caves, but my camera did. Had we seen this we would have left in a hurry!

The ghost hunting team from the TV programme Most Haunted carried out an over-night vigil within the caves during December 2003. They spent the night without lights and members of the team said the caves were the darkest place they had ever visited. During the night, they had many paranormal experiences, seeing orbs of light and hearing noises. Without prior knowledge of the mysterious Hellfire caves Derek Achora, the medium, felt the presence of a young girl dressed in white, and of females dressed in nuns' habits. “Ladies of the night” were said to have worn such attire to disguise themselves whilst entertaining members of the Hellfire Club in the caves.

Someone has an interesting sense of humour! Spooky toilet roll holder in the ladies loo at the Hellfire Caves.

Thank you for visiting. I would love to hear from you so please leave a comment.   


  1. Mum would always bring back flowers from those shopping trips and some small toy/ book for the 3 of us. Love the photo's this week.
    Sue xx

    1. Thanks Sister, I have no memory at all of those shopping trips or the presents. Wish I could remember more!

  2. Barbara, Part two! Another intriguing episode. More more please.


    1. Thanks Ed, I'm so pleased you are enjoying it. I'm looking forward to reading your contributions, although there is no pressure. Anything will be gratefully received at a time to suit you.
      I don't seem to have got the comments worked out on this blog. I'm not being notified about them, hence the delay in my replies. I must look into it in the morning. Night, Barbara

  3. In the first 3 photos of Hellfire Caves it looks like there are people dressed in old costumes in the photos. Is that camera magic or were there costumed "guides" there? The last photo is positively creepy!

    West Wycombe Park is beautiful. Were you able to go into the building?

    1. Hello Nancy, thanks so much for commenting. The ‘people’ in the caves are waxwork models – sorry I should have explained that.

      I’ve no idea what is going on in that last ‘photo, but it frightened the life out of me when I first looked at it. I don’t know if it’s something set up by the people that run the caves, but if it is I didn’t notice a thing – but my camera did!

      West Wycombe Park does open to the public but not on the day we were there. It’s a National Trust property so you can always check the opening days/times by visiting the National Trust website.

  4. Barbara, I also wonder at times if my brothers and I would tell the childhood stories in the same way. In fact, when we gather for families one of us will start a story and the other disagree on what happened. Of course, all in fun.

    1. Hello Colleen, thanks so much for your visit! My sister has written about her life, and I will be including it here. It should be interesting to see the differences and similarities in our memories. I was the unexpected baby who came along after mum & dad had given up all though of having any more children, there is a 10 year age gap between the eldest (my brother) and the youngest (me) so our memories are bound to be quite different.

    2. lovely memories, reminds me of a saying a friend of mine said "Take a Picture and run away" I can see that here, great post. be well Agman

    3. Hello Agman, I've not heard that saying before, but it is certainly apt. Thanks for your visit, Barbara.

  5. Those caves are positively creepy, Barbara, I would not visit them at night! How lovely to have a baby book.

    1. Hello Dara, I’m not at all sure about the caves. I keep telling myself it was some kind of set up, but then I question how it could work if it only shows up on a camera. It is all very odd! I’m glad I went, but I won’t be rushing back.
      Thanks for calling in, Barbara.

  6. How wonderfully spooky! That's great that you are able to visit the places you remember from family conversations when you were a child.

    1. Hi Elizabeth, it was too spooky for my liking! It was fun to visit all the old places. Thanks for calling in, Barbara.


I really appreciate your comment. Thank you!
Barbara x

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